COLUMBIA — The wine industry is growing in Missouri. This fall, MU will offer a food science degree with an emphasis in enology and a plant science degree with an emphasis in viticulture.
Enology is the science and study of wine and winemaking and viticulture is the science and study of grape cultivation.
Courses will be phased into the fall 2008 semester, but right now there is only one enology course offered at MU.
“Essentially, at this point we only have one course on the books, Food Sciences 2195: Grapes and Wines of the World,” said Ingolf Gruen, associate professor of food sciences at MU.
Gruen has taught that class in the past and said it is a very popular course. Many students wanted to learn more about wine and winemaking but no additional curriculum was offered, he said.
The details of the program have not yet been decided but there are some courses in mind. There will likely be courses on wine production, cellar operation and wine merchandising. A course in enology for freshmen will likely be offered, too.
It will be one of few such programs in the country and the only one in the Midwest.
“The unique feature of the program will be the vineyard-to-table aspect,” said Keith Striegler, director of the Institute for Continental Climate Viticulture and Enology and associate professor of food sciences at MU. Students will not only learn how to raise grapes and make wine, but they will also learn the business side of running a winery.
“What we’re looking at is integrated wine education, Striegler said.”
There are also tentative plans for an Institute for Continental Climate Viticulture and Enology building on campus and a vineyard close to campus for students’ lab work.
The program stemmed from a demand from the growing wine industry as well as from students. “The industry has a need for food science students with specific knowledge in viticulture and enology,” Gruen said.
The wine industry in Missouri has shown significant growth in recent years. The state has grown from 50 wineries to 70 in the last five years, according to a report by the Missouri Wine and Grape Board.
“The wine industry in Missouri has steadily increased,” said Jim Anderson, the executive director of the Missouri Wine Board. “Since I started here 10 years ago, it’s more than doubled.”
Anderson said the total estimated economic value of wine and grapes on the Missouri economy in 2007 was more than $700 million, about a 9 percent increase from $640,000 million in 2005. Missouri wineries sold 295,000 crates of wine in 2005, and in 2007 they sold an estimated 352,000 cases, according to the report.
Part of this growth is due to wine- and grape-related tourism. In 2005 the state received 758,000 wine-related tourists and in 2007 the state received an estimated 812,000 wine-related tourists, according to the report. Anderson said agri-tourism will be key in overall tourism in Missouri. He also said that wineries are an economic development tool for more rural areas by creating jobs and bringing in other industries to the area.
The hope is that an enology and viticulture program at MU will continue to fuel the growing wine market in Missouri by providing individuals with specialized knowledge of the region. “The wine industry is investing in the fact that programs at MU will help the industry grow,” Striegler said.
MU’s program aims to benefit smaller wineries in Missouri as well. Anderson said that smaller wineries cannot afford to go abroad and hire enology and viticulure experts, so a local labor force is essential in helping them grow.
“The more local people trained, the better it is for them,” he said.
MU’s program also aims to create a regional identity for Missouri wines.
“The strategy in Missouri is to develop a regional identity in the face of a global economy,” Striegler said.
Anderson thinks in the past people would associate France and Italy, and more recently California, with wine but that could change in the future. “I think, hopefully, in the next five to ten years we can get people to think of Missouri wines.”